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Chicago Suburbs Become First U.S. City to Pay Repairs to Black Residents

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Evanston, Ill. On Monday became the first U.S. city to offer reparations to its black residents for past discrimination and the lingering effects of slavery.

Chicago’s suburban city council voted 8-1 to distribute $ 400,000 to eligible black households. Each eligible household would receive $ 25,000 for home repairs or down payments on the property.

The program is funded by donations and revenues from a 3% tax on the sale of recreational marijuana. The city has pledged to distribute $ 10 million over 10 years.

Eligible residents must have lived or be a direct descendant of a black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 and who experienced housing discrimination due to city ordinances, policies or practices.

Alderman Rue Simmons, who proposed the program which passed in 2019, said reparations groups offered pro-bono legal assistance if the program was challenged in court.

This is being set aside for an injured community that happens to be black, which was hurt by the town of Evanston for anti-black housing policies, Simmons said.

The city council acted after dozens of citizens addressed the body and the plan was rejected by many.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, the only one voting against the plan, said she supported the repairs, but what the city council was debating was a housing plan called repairs. She said people should dictate the terms for resolving their grievances. Fleming described the program as paternalistic, and he assumes black people cannot manage their own money.

Hundreds of communities and organizations across the country are considering providing reparations to blacks. They range from the state of California to cities like Amherst, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island, Asheville, North Carolina and Iowa City, Iowa, religious denominations like the Episcopal Church; and prominent colleges like Georgetown University in Washington.

The efforts, some of which have been underway for years, gained momentum following the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd in May. President Joe Biden has even expressed support for the creation of a federal commission to study reparations for blacks, a proposal that has languished for decades in Congress.

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